arancini mac & cheese

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arancini is a masterpiece of italian cooking, and is one of those divine things we get to experience in life on earth.
in italian, arancini means “little oranges”. they are small fried balls of oozy, cheesy risotto with a gorgeous, crispy outside.
as glorious as they may be, they are a rare thing i will not make in my own kitchen. i don’t really fry anything and these babies take a LOT of time & effort to make. so whenever i am at an italian restaurant that makes arancini for me, i order them as fast as i can.
my gift to you: easy arancini deliciousness that you can whip up on a regular weeknight. AND you don’t have to boil the pasta!
it’s especially kid-friendly and with the addition of the salty pancetta, it was a big pleaser for the man in my house. with your fork, you gently crack open the crunchy panko topping and it gives way to the beautiful, stringy mozzarella cheese hiding underneath.
try not to eat the entire dish.

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arancini mac & cheese
adapted from alexandra cooks


7 tbsp butter, divided

1/4 cup flour

3 cups milk (whole or 2%)

3 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 oz pancetta, diced

3/4 lb (12 oz) elbow pasta (or other small pasta), uncooked

5 oz parmesan cheese, grated

3/4 cup panko

1/4 cup italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

8 oz mozzarella (fresh mozzarella “pearls” are perfect for this recipe, but pre-shredded works fine too)


1. preheat oven to 400 degrees. melt 4 tbsp butter in a large (2 quart) saucepan over medium-high heat. add flour, whisking constantly for about 1 minute. add milk & water, whisking to scrape all flour-butter mixture off the bottom of the pan. bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. add salt and pepper. simmer until mixture begins to thicken a bit, about 10 minutes. remove from heat.

2. meanwhile, in a small skillet, crisp the pancetta over medium heat until nicely browned. pour uncooked macaroni pasta into an ungreased 9×13 baking dish, and grate parmesan cheese evenly over the top. once the pancetta is done, sprinkle on top of pasta & parmesan. add remaining 3 tbsp of butter to pancetta pan and melt over low heat. place panko in a medium-sized mixing bowl & pour melted butter over top, and add in chopped parsley. using your fingers, mix to combine. season with just a pinch of salt & pepper.

3. pour milk mixture over pasta in baking dish (it will feel like a lot of liquid, but it will be fine – this cooks the pasta). cover dish with foil and carefully transfer to the oven. bake for 20 minutes.

4. remove from oven, uncover, and gently stir. scatter mozzarella evenly over the top of the mixture. top with panko mixture. bake for 15-20 minutes more – uncovered – until top is golden brown and macaroni is bubbling. let dish sit for about 10 minutes to cool before serving.


macaroni & cheese with chickpeas

this is a fantastic recipe that i have made for the little she so many times.
i had been looking for a kid-friendly macaroni and cheese, but one that was fairly healthy.
(and it had to be super yummy because i wanted to make it for my hubby too.)
the first time i made this was with my mom while she was in town visiting.
and after the little girl had her fill, us big girls finished off the rest! 

macaroni & cheese with chickpeas (or hummus mac’n’cheese)

1 1/2 cups – 2 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni (uncooked)

1 cup milk (you can use nonfat, i used whole for babygirl)

1/2 cup (i used – on accident – 1 can & it was fine) chickpeas/garbanzo beans (or navy beans or white beans), drained & rinsed

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (about 8 oz.)

1/2 tsp salt (i used about 1/4 tsp)

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp pepper

PAM (i used olive oil cooking spray)

1. bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. drain.

2. while the macaroni is cooking, combine the beans and the milk in a food processor and process until pureed.

3. coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and set it over medium heat. add the bean mixture to the pan and cook, stirring until smooth, 1-2 minutes. add the cheese and cook until melted and creamy, 1-2 minutes longer. stir in salt, garlic powder, paprika & pepper.

4. stir in the macaroni and serve warm.
(it will keep for up to a week or so, but it doesn’t last that long in my house!)

from the cookbook deceptively delicious by jessica seinfeld.
i highly recommend this cookbook